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DECEMBER 28, 2014
by Becky Sullivan

Before turning the page on 2014, All Things Considered is paying tribute to some of the people who died this year whose stories you may not have heard — including Marion Downs.i

For more than 30 years, Marion Downs pushed for newborns to be screened for hearing loss soon after birth.

Marion Downs Center

As recently as the early 1990s, if you were born deaf, nobody would know for years. Parents were left to realize that something was amiss when their toddlers were not learning to talk or communicate at a normal pace. A diagnosis that late meant many deaf children never fully developed the ability to use language.

Today, things are drastically different for hard-of-hearing children, thanks to the efforts of a remarkable woman: Marion Downs.

It was just chance that Downs ended up as an audiologist. In the 1930s, she dropped out of college to marry and have children. When her children were old enough to spend their days in school, she wrapped up her bachelor's degree and headed to the University of Denver to register for graduate school.

Read More . . .or download transcript



By Joanne Davidson
The Denver Post

In 1963, when Marion Downs was working as an audiologist at a new otolaryngology clinic in what was then the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, she created an infant hearing screening program that has since been adopted by hospitals nationwide.

Today, 96 percent of all babies born in the U.S. are tested within hours of their birth, and those with impairments can be fitted with hearing aids during their first few weeks of life. This helps avoid the speech and language development problems associated with childhood hearing loss.

Downs also trained peers throughout the world in pediatric audiology, authored numerous articles and books, and lectured extensively. The  Marion Downs Center  continues her pioneering work.

But it's her spunk that people will remember.  Downs died of natural causes Nov. 13 in Dana Point, Calif. She was 100.

"Heaven can wait!" she exclaimed  in 2011 when she accepted the prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Award for Science and Medicine. And on Jan. 26,  when she celebrated her 100th birthday at a gala headlined by Donny Osmond.

Jerry Northern, her friend and colleague of 40 years, ended his tribute by recalling one of Downs' favorite lines: "Live for today, plan for tomorrow, but let's party tonight!"

Marion Pfaender Downs was born Jan. 26, 1914, in New Ulm, Minn. She received degrees in political science and English from the University of Minnesota, a master's degree in audiology from the University of Denver, and honorary doctorates from the University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado and University of Arizona School of Health Sciences. In 2006, she was inducted into the  Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. The nearly 100 articles and books she has published cover various aspects of audiology — and the pre-eminent textbook "Hearing in Children," which she wrote with Northern, has been translated into several foreign languages.

Read More  . . .

NVRC Fact Sheets are downloadable PDF documents. 

Hearing Loss

Hearing Aids

Caregivers and Parent Resources

Hearing Dogs

Cochlear Implants

Assistive Listening Devices and Technology

How to File a Closed Captioned Complaint

Interpreters and Transliterators

The following Tip Sheets are from the ADA Information Center:
  and the DOJ's ADA website:

The following Standard Practice Papers are from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID):

Technology Fact Sheets


  •  Ameriphone VCO
  • CapTel Phone
  • Clarity Cordless Phones
  • Crystal Tone Phone

Signaling Devices

  • Alert Master Combination 
  • Baby Crying Signaler
  • Ringmax Amplified Ringer
  • Shake Awake Vibrating Alarm Clock
  • Smoke Alarms
  • Sonic Alert Door Bell Signaler
  • Sonic Boom Alarm Clock and Bed Shaker


  •  In-Line Amplifier for Phones
  • Portable Telephone Amplifiers
  • UniVox 2A+ Home Cushion Loop Amplifier 
  • PockeTalker

Music and Television

  • Music Link
  • Music Link Dual
  • Neck Loop and T-Links
  • Television Devices

TTY Devices

  • TTY Ultratec Superprint
  • Uniphone TTY and Amplified Phone

Loan2Own Program


By Bonnie O'Leary  6/29/11

This was a very interesting forum on the research that went into the magazine’s 2009 feature on hearing loss as well as why Consumer Reports considers hearing aids a priority area for health consumers.  The discussion was led by Elissa Schuler Adair, Manager, Health Care Research, and Senior Editor, Tobie Stanger. 

As an introduction, Ms. Adair gave a quick overview of the Consumer Reports profile.  Their publications have  8+ million subscribers, and their popularity is due to a number of factors.  Their product comparisons and ratings are comprehensive, unbiased, independent, consumer-driven, and they accept no donations from manufacturers.  The company came to the HLAA convention as a way to reach out to people with hearing loss who use hearing aids because gathering hearing aid information is difficult and expensive, and Consumer Reports wants to hear from wearers about their experiences.

“How to Hear Well in a Noisy World”

Many of you may have read the Consumer Reports article “How to Hear Well in a Noisy World”, published in their June 23, 2009 issue.  Tobie Sanger wrote the article.  She has a personal interest in hearing loss because her daughter is deaf and has a cochlear implant.  And Consumer Reports receives a lot of mail about hearing aids, asking how to find the right brand, and where to go to get it.  

To gather the data featured in the article, 12 secret shoppers purchased 48 hearing aids over several months.  The Consumer Reports lab tested features on 44 hearing aids, and a survey was conducted among 1,100 hearing aid purchasers.  All the shoppers had a hearing loss and they were paired with Consumer Reports staffers.  The script was that the shopper was accompanied by a relative or friend who would be paying for the device.  Shoppers were assigned to specific vendors and retailers, and they returned for at least one follow-up visit.

Shopper feedback

Shopper-staff pairs provided feedback on their experiences, many sounding like what we hear all the time in our NVRC outreach:  the dispenser made the hearing aid decision without taking any personal history; the vendor sold a certain style of hearing aid without asking if the buyer wanted it; the vendor was hurried and brisk, covering the basics too quickly.  Shoppers also experienced “the sell.”  Discounts were offered if the purchase was made by a certain date, offers were made for free batteries and 100{31ab897a4370feb218155abc15d7b38f5bba01528a749bd66fe114ec092a63fc} refunds if the trial period was reduced from 45 to 30 days, and the top-of-the-line aids were pushed before trying mid-level aids.

But there were some good experiences.  These included having the dispenser take as long as was needed and explain everything clearly, recommending the lowest-level hearing aid, and exchanging a hearing aid when the shopper complained about the quality.

Lab-testing after shopping

Audiologists used real-ear measurement and other tests to check the hearing aids’ fit.  Two-thirds of the 48 aids purchased by the secret shoppers were improperly fit.  The audiologists also tested the various features like directional microphones, feedback suppression, and telecoils.

Survey of hearing aid users
Of the 1,100 consumers who had purchased hearing aids in the past three years, 73{31ab897a4370feb218155abc15d7b38f5bba01528a749bd66fe114ec092a63fc} were highly satisfied with their aids.  However these users were not acquainted with the features included in their hearing aids.  Consumer Reports found that 1/4 didn’t know whether they had feedback suppression, and 1/3 didn’t know whether they had directional microphones.  Of all the areas they reported on, consumers gave the lowest marks to the choice and selection offered, which was limited.

Hearing aid buying/trying advice
- The consumer should expect a provider with an audiology degree or hearing-aid specialist certification.  There should be a broad choice of brands, styles and features.  Clinic hours should be convenient, and repairs available on a walk-in basis.  Real-ear test should be performed. (Bonnie’s note: my audiologist explained to me that the real-ear measurement equipment is extremely expensive which is why it isn’t always available.  She does not have it but refers her patients to another audiologist who does.)   Rehab classes or therapy should be offered after fitting.

- As a consumer, you should focus on the features of the hearing aid, not the brands.  Ask about the telecoil, directional microphone, feedback suppression, and residual amplification.  Practice using the aids in different environments and activities, and make sure you have follow-up fittings as often as needed.

- Haggle!  Of those surveyed who did bargain shop, 40{31ab897a4370feb218155abc15d7b38f5bba01528a749bd66fe114ec092a63fc} got a price cut.  Shopping for hearing aids in December produces better bargains because dispensers aren’t as busy.  Go to more than one dispenser and make it known that you are shopping around.  Decline promotional extras if you don’t need them and ask for a price cut instead.

Audiologist response

Audiologists showed concern that the Consumer Reports research found they weren’t much better at fitting hearing aids than less-educated hearing instrument specialists.  They were also concerned that consumers were confused about who had fitted their hearing aids.  The good news is they’re more aware that they need to improve education of, and communication with, consumers.

Consumer challenges

- It’s not enjoyable to shop for hearing aids, and providers pressure you to buy more hearing aid than you need. 
- Many people can’t afford hearing aids, and those who can might end up spending too much. 
- It can take so much time to adjust to wearing a hearing aid that many consumers just give up.
- The fitting is as important as the hearing aid, but it’s not easy to judge the skill of the professional who does the fitting.
- It’s hard to price shop because the price often includes service, and service is often different among providers.

Why Consumer Reports doesn’t test hearing aids more often

It’s very expensive to do this kind of testing, and interest is limited.  Only 8{31ab897a4370feb218155abc15d7b38f5bba01528a749bd66fe114ec092a63fc} of Consumer Reports subscribers buy a new hearing aid each year, so regular testing of the market wouldn’t pay for itself.

So what’s next?

At the moment, Consumer Reports is actively considering retailer ratings, rating budget models of hearing aids, offering a features database with no testing of these features, and offering an on-line hearing test.  Consumer Reports would like to hear from us!  We can provide information about our own product experiences, share our main concerns, and offer suggestions on how to get this information to people who need it.

If you have comments you would like to share about your hearing aid experience, send them to